Archive Record

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Catalog Number KSc032734
Collection NY Historical Society
Object Name Letter
Dates of Creation 1841/07/31
Scope & Content Athens, July 31, 1841
Friend Lanman,
I owe you an apology; but I fear it would be too lengthy, were I to give only a part of the many reasons that I could offer for my remissness: therefore, if you will forgive the past and grant me the privilege of writing with a pencil you shall hear from me from the spot where I am sitting, upon a pile of driftwood hugely thrown around the base of a gigantic tree, one of the many hundreds that rise majesticly from the lovely little islands in the waters of the Susquehanna. I have selected this place; not so much for the comfortable seat it affords as to enable me to obtain a more interesting view of all around. Above the luxurient growth of wild weeds, I behold upon either side the pearly waters go silently along. Fit emblem of eternity this never changing stream, its course is onward, onward, and it returneth not. How unlike the ebbing and flowing of the tide upon the Atlantic shore, which is more suited to the impulse of my mind, as its daily fluctuations afford some apology for erring man in his vacillating course through this world of mystery. I am wrong in saying no change is apparent here; on all sides I behold the strongest evidence that here too it exists in its most terrible form-the rude pile on which I am sitting was forced above its natural level by the furious waters that rushed madly down from the mountain tops, mighty trees have been torn from these sunny banks and born away perchance to the ocean, whose loftiest branches an hundred years before have sported with the winds of heaven, while many others in my view from their lacerated sides and distended roots, show that they too like Jacob of old, have wrestled with the God of storms. But I have looked on the picture only in part, was the tempest sent in wrath? Oh no, the waters have long since slept upon those inundated fields now overshadowed with the "golden grain." I have this moment been listening to the happy voices of the husbandman joined in merry song of harvest home, and as they handle the new-bound sheaf with gladdened hearts, are not unmindful of the bounteous hand of the giver.
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The little birds unconscious of my presence come boldly and flutter awhile in the little creek that runs near me, and then go hopping and chirping in the branches above my head, the old wood-duck too encircled by her brood has ventured out from her hiding place in the tall brakes to sport awhile; already they have espied me, and away they go to the opposite side of the river, thrashing the water at a furious rate. Not far distant stands a group of hemlock trees. Heavens! what a study for a painter. With their giant arms extended, they look like the ancient Patriarchs in supplication for a ruined world. I have been walking upon the bank near the shore observing the fishes, on so sultry a day as this I almost envy them, a large one venturing near the shore. I raised my old straw hat and away he darted o'er the clear pebbles seeming but the shadow of a passing bird. Yonder comes a Muskrat steering his course for the water, he moves on as tho I had no power to harm. If I had a good club I think I could make old stinkibus move a little faster, how odoriferous not offensive however-I should have no objections tho his tail was this moment about my neck, but he is invisible, all save his ears that occasionally appear above the surface of the river. A boy is fording the river some distance above me; suppose I give you a small outline of him
SKETCH OF BOY WEARING HAT FORDING RIVER ON HORSBACK] its hardly worth the space it occupies-never mind, you know I can do better. I left stony Brook about 5 weeks ago accompanied by my Wife and child of course. My health had become so bad a change was deemed necessary. I came by the way of Albany, a place myself nor wife had never been-we passed up the river by daylight, how truly grand is the scenery upon the Hudson. The appearance of the mountains near West Point are bold and solemn. those above Cattskill pleased me the most. Their distant and lofty brows were firmly drawn along the western sky that showered down its golden smiles, imparting to all beneath its sunny hues, like a fond Mother bending down to kiss the brow of her sleeping child. I thought of Mr. Cole every moment, he is truly a great artist, has chosen the right place to study; he should be called the Prospero of the highlands. -
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Went upon the railroad from Albany to Auburn. The scenery along the Mohawk is delightful. Spent a day at Auburn, visited the state's prison, saw all the convicts at work, likewise when marched in to their dinner, most of their faces bespoke the workings of a bad mind, poor fellows, truly the way of the transgressor is hard. We crossed Cayuga Lake to Ithaca in a new and well managed steam boat with every attention from her polite Captain, arriving the next morning at this modern Athens.
Here I am, where I shall remain 5 or 6 weeks or more. My health is much improved. As soon as I feel able shall commence sketching in earnest for I long to be thus employed I can assure you.
I suppose you saw the exhibition of the National Academy, they had a fine run of company and I expect have made some money. I will not trouble you with my opinion of the concern. I am no favorite with the wire pullers that figure in the attic chambers. They hung my best portrait in a very bad light, and had it not been for a little loud talking, would have suffered it to remain there through the season. To use an expression of my late brother Henry's "There are some men whose bodies are too big for their bones-they will cave in some day."
My Wife desires her respects, and furthermore expresses her gratitude for the kind attentions that have afforded her the perusal of your very interesting production and other excellent matter which the papers contain.
The quadruple Notion was received just in time to convey as a curiosity. I have not heard from Stony Brook since I arrived here. Therefore can tell you nothing of Brother William.
Dont defer your visit there on account of my abscence. If you have come to the end of this letter without pausing, you must be out of breath. I shall be happy to hear from you. Direct Athens, Bradford County, Pa.
With great Respect,
Your Friend
S. A. Mount
Chas. Lanman Esqr.